Experts warn on population boom

Experts have warned of worsening poverty levels in the country if the current population growth rate is not reduced, saying the rate threatens to compromise service delivery and economic development.

Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) research expert Kennedy Machila said the country’s population keeps increasing at an alarming rate and is projected to hit 63 million in 2063.

Munthali (L) and Young Hong follow proceedings during the meeting

Currently, Malawi’s population is estimated at 17.6 million, according to the 2018 Population and Housing Census conducted by the National Statistical Office. The present population is almost four times the population of 1966 and 1.3 times that of 2008. The total population increased by 35 percent between 2008 and 2018, representing an average growth rate of 2.9 percent per year.

Speaking during a media breakfast United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) organised in Lilongwe yesterday as the world commemorated World Population Day, Machila said economic development and social services will only be sustained if there is consideration to reduce fertility levels at tender ages.

He said: “With lower fertility, Malawi will be better positioned to improve overall health outcomes, increase resources for health services, and achieve the health-related SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] targets.”

Machila recommended the need for government to accelerate fertility decline to attain a more favourable population ratio of the working-age population to dependents, continue to implement universal access to sexual and reproductive health rights and family planning to improve access to services for young people and those under-served.

UNFPA Malawi country representative Won Young Hong has since called on government and stakeholders to consider empowering young people and increasing investment in sexual and reproductive health, saying it is key to development.

She said empowerment of the youth will not only save them from early marriages but will also help them be matured and make informed decisions.

Said Hong: “Investment in sexual reproductive health for the youth is key to development, youths must be encouraged to be in school so that they can be matured and make informed decisions not out of influence, so if they are empowered we can have a controlled population to meet the resources the country can offer.”

In his remarks, National Planning Commission director general Thomas Munthali said government will consider the recommendations as the increase in population is affecting the economic growth.

He said if population remains high, services will be compromised and as a country, there is need to strive to push for women to be educated and increase sexual reproductive health messages to help people make choices on having children.

“Population is central to the development of Malawi. For us to move forward, we need a quality population to harness development dividends.

“We must consider providing education to our youths so that they have better choices. By being in school, they will be engaged with school work which will then delay starting points of having children at a tender age and then they will have children by choice.

“So, we need to sensitise people to the quality of education and ensuring that our leaders preach the same.”

Munthali’s commission is tasked with developing a successor plan for the Vision 2020 expiring next year.

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